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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus

Don Stewart :: How Could Christ Be God and Human at the Same Time?

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How Could Christ Be God and Human at the Same Time? (The Communion of Attributes)

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 18

Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human. The attributes of both two natures of the God/Man were expressed in the one Person. This means that there was no mixing of the natures or any division of His Person. He was one united Person with both human and divine attributes. This is known as the “communion of attributes.” The fact that Christ had attributes of both of God and humanity is clearly taught in Scripture.

Some Preliminary Observations Need to Be Made about This Issue

Before we attempt to answer this question there are a number of preliminary points need to be made as we seek to find answers to these issues about the dual natures of Christ.

Observation 1: Jesus’ Christ Was in a Unique Situation

The fact that Jesus had both a perfect human nature as well as a divine nature is something that is unique in history. Therefore, we have nothing anywhere with which to compare it. We must always remember this when we attempt to give answers to questions concerning how the two natures worked with each other.

Thus, we cannot, and we should not, attempt to answer these questions by comparing it to things we do know and understand. Indeed, there are no real points of comparison.

Observation 2: There Is a Mystery about God Becoming a Human

This brings us to our next point. The Apostle Paul wrote of the mystery of God becoming a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. He wrote the following to Timothy:

Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

There is an element that is certainly beyond our understanding as we consider the issues around Jesus’ human nature and His divine nature.

Paul wrote the following to the Colossians about this plan of God which was unknown to previous generations. That is the plan that God would become a human being. The apostle wrote,

My goal is that they will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have full confidence because they have complete understanding of God’s secret plan, which is Christ himself. (Colossians 2:2 NLT)

The hypostatic union, that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine at the same time, is ultimately a mystery. We cannot understand it any more than we can understand the doctrine of the Trinity. While it is a mystery, it is certainly not irrational. We believe in the hypostatic union is a reality because it is taught in Scripture by a God who is unable to deceive.

What The Scriptures Teach about Jesus’ Two Natures

Now that we have looked at some preliminary matter, the following points need to be made about His humanity as well as His deity.

1. Jesus Is Called God, Yet He Was Human

To begin with, Jesus is God the Son. John’s gospel begins as follows:

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)

The Word, Jesus, was in the beginning with God.

Though Jesus was called God, He was also recognized as a genuine human being. For example, the centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion testified to His humanity:

Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:39 NRSV)

He realized Jesus was a man yet He was much more than a man. Indeed, Jesus was both human and divine.

2. Jesus the Fullness of Deity, but He Had a Body of Flesh and Bones

We also find that the fullness of deity dwelt in Him. Paul wrote the following to the Colossians about this essential truth:

For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body. (Colossians 2:9 NLT)

All of God’s fullness dwelt in Jesus.

Yet Jesus had an actual body of flesh and bones. Indeed, Jesus said the following to His frightened disciples on the day of His resurrection when He appeared to them in a locked room:

Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have. (Luke 24:39 NKJV)

Jesus was a genuine human with a body of flesh and bones. If this were not so, He could not have told the disciples to handle His resurrected body. Yet, He was also fully God.

3. Jesus Existed before Abraham, Yet Was Born during the Reign of Augustus Caesar

Jesus Himself made the astounding claim that He existed before the patriarch Abraham; a man who lived some two thousand years before Jesus. In John’s gospel, we read of what He said to the religious rulers who asked Him about His identity:

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58 HCSB)

Jesus of Nazareth claimed that He was in existence before Abraham. Clearly, He claimed to more than a mere man.

Yet this Person who claimed to have existed before Abraham was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus. Luke records the moment His mother Mary gave birth:

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6, 7 NKJV)

Again, we have the contrast between the human Jesus and the divine Jesus. The divine Son of God became a baby in a stable in Bethlehem.

4. Jesus Knew All Things, Yet He Grew in Wisdom

The Bible stresses that Jesus knew all things. After His resurrection, in a conversation with Simon Peter, we read the following:

He [Jesus] asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. (John 21:17 HCSB)

Peter acknowledged that the Lord knew “all things.”

However, in the Gospel of Luke, we read that the human Jesus actually grew in wisdom. The Bible says,

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people. (Luke 2:52 HCSB)

The contrast is striking. Jesus knew all things yet grew in wisdom.

5. Jesus Was without Sin, Yet He Was Tempted

Jesus Christ, God the Son, was without sin. The writer to the Hebrews stated this about as clear as it can be stated:

We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he didn’t sin. (Hebrews 4:15 God’s Word)

Jesus did not sin!

Yet Mathew wrote about Jesus’ temptation to sin. Indeed, after He was baptized in the Jordan River we read the following took place:

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. (Matthew 4:1 KJV)

Jesus, the One who was without sin was tempted to sin. Yet, as the Bible tells us, He refused to submit to sin.

6. Jesus Received Prayer, Yet He Prayed To The Father

We find that Jesus was addressed in prayer. In the Book of Acts, we find that the martyr Stephen prayed directly to Jesus as he was dying. It says,

And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59 NLT)

Stephen recognized that He could pray directly to Jesus. It did not trouble Him to address Jesus Himself in prayer.

Yet Jesus Christ prayed to His Father during His time here upon the earth. Indeed, on the night of His betrayal we read the following words which He said:

Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You. (John 17:1 HCSB)

Jesus prayed to God the Father yet He Himself received prayers as God the Son. Again we find the contrast.

7. Jesus Gives Eternal Life, Yet He Experienced Death

The Bible says that it is Jesus alone who grants eternal life. Jesus Himself made this clear. He made the following claim:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28 NRSV)

Jesus is the Giver of eternal life.

Yet, Jesus died. The Bible says,

Once again Jesus shouted, and then he died. (Matthew 27:50 CEV)

One of the great ironies about Jesus’ life and ministry is that the One who offers eternal life for those who believe in Him also experienced physical death for these same people. Indeed, He died so that each of us could live.

There Are Three Important Truths Need to Be Recognized

There are three important things which should be emphasized about these facts about the two natures of God the Son, Jesus Christ. They include the following.

Jesus Christ Had Two Distinct Natures, One Human and One Divine

First, Jesus Christ had two distinct natures. He was fully God and fully human. The evidence is clear. He was fully God as well fully human. There is no doubt whatsoever that the New Testament teaches this truth.

There Was No Mingling or Mixing of the Natures

Second, there was no intermingling between the two natures. He has been God for all eternity but only became human in time. When He became human God the Son took upon Himself a nature which He did not previously have.

He Was Only One Person

Finally, while God the Son, Jesus Christ, had two natures, He was only one Person. He was not a dual personality. Neither did He do some things as God and other things as a human. He did not have a divine-human or a human-divine nature.

Thus, while we look at what Scripture has to tell us about the Person of Jesus Christ and the attributes He possessed as both God and man, we must recognize His uniqueness as well as the unique nature of this subject. Indeed, there is nobody else to whom we can compare Him.

Summary – Question 18
How Could Christ Be God and Human at the Same Time? (The Communion Of Attributes)

The Bible teaches that two thousand years ago God the Son became a human being. Jesus Christ, in one body, was both God and human. The great truth of the New Testament is that the eternal God came to our earth like one of us, fully human. This is known as the “communion of attributes.” Obviously there are so many questions which arise about this essential truth of the Christian faith. It is important that we have answers to these questions.

However, before we examine what the Scripture does say about this issue, there are two preliminary truths that must be appreciated.

To begin with, Jesus Christ is unique. Never in our history has God become a human being. Therefore, we have absolutely nothing with which to compare Him. This being the case, we should resist the temptation of attempting to explain Jesus being both God and human at the same time with comparisons or analogies which are familiar to us. We should not attempt to do this because there is no real comparison to anything, anywhere. This must be understood.

We also must understand that there is a certain degree of mystery with Jesus being fully God and fully human at the same time. Scripture itself speaks of it this way. Consequently, there should be a number of questions about this topic that we cannot answer. Again, we must realize our limitations. God has given us sufficient answers to our questions about God the Son becoming a human being but He certainly has not told us everything. Therefore, we must realize that we will have a number of unanswered questions when we look at this subject.

Having said this we can now look at the contrasts between His two natures as it is taught in Scripture.

First, the Bible states that Jesus was both God and human at the same time. There is no doubt about this. Jesus was the fullness of Deity, God Himself. Yet He had a body of flesh and bones and He suffered all the limitations of humanity. How this could be is not explained in the New Testament, it is merely taught.

There is also the contrast in His humanity and deity with respect to His birth. Jesus claimed that He existed before the man Abraham, the patriarch who lived some two thousand years before the time of Christ. Yet the Bible says that Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Again we see the contrast between His humanity and deity.

The Bible says that God the Son, Jesus, knew all things. Indeed, one of the attributes of God is that He is omniscient, He has all knowledge. Yet we are also told that He grew in wisdom. While these two truths are taught there is no explanation given for them.

Scripture Jesus was without sin His entire life. There is no doubt about this. Yet Scripture tells us that He was tempted to sin. Again, no explanation for how this can be.

People prayed directly to Jesus. As God, He can rightly receive our prayers. Yet Jesus Himself prayed to God the Father while He was here on the earth. This is another example of His humanity and His deity both being evident. Finally, Jesus is the One who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. Only He can offer this to humanity. However, Jesus Himself, the Life-giver, experienced physical death on our behalf.

Thus, the contrast between the two natures of Jesus is highlighted in a number of different ways. While His humanity and deity are taught side-by-side in Scripture we are never told how this can be. As we stated in our introduction to this question, there is indeed much mystery regarding the union of God Himself with perfect humanity. Therefore, as we struggle to answer some of these questions we must also do so recognizing our limitations.

What Are Some Common Misconceptions about the Two Natures of Christ? ← Prior Section
In What Sense Did Jesus Empty Himself? Next Section →
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